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Ashmore Precinct Development

FRIENDS OF ERSKINEVILLE INC.

BACKGROUND PAPER – ASHMORE ESTATE DEVELOPMENT

 

SITE:

The Ashmore Estate is an area in Erskineville of approximately 17 hectares bounded by Ashmore Street, Mitchell Road, Coulson Street and the Bankstown Railway line.

The site is currently an industrial location and of the 17Ha is owned partly by Leighton Constructions (minority holding) (Leighton) and Goodman Investments (major holding) (Goodman), and there are other minor holdings. It is proposed that the site be developed to house 6000+ people, (which effectively doubles the population of Erskineville), in approximately 3500 apartments in over 40 buildings with provision for off street parking for approximately 1900 vehicles.

HISTORY

·         As at 2006 the site was approved by the former South Sydney Council (prior to amalgamation with the City of Sydney council) for development into a residential area. Approval was for apartment buildings no more than 4 or 5 storeys in height, with the Leighton holding to be buildings of a maximum 4 storeys in height.

·         Following amalgamation of the South Sydney Council and the City of Sydney Council , the site came under the control of the City of Sydney council (now referred to as Council)

·         In 2010 the then Planning Minister Tony Kelly, using section 3A of the Planning Act, advised the Council that the previous approval for 4 to 5 storeys should be amended to allow up to 19 storeys in height. It is understood that this change was instituted as a result of a plan by Goodman to increase density of the site using 19 storey buildings.

·         Resident opposition to 19 storeys (more than half of all development application correspondence to council in 2011) led to a public meeting chaired by Lord Mayor Clover Moore

·         In late 2011 council released a proposed revised plan for apartment buildings with a maximum of 9 storeys in height. The Lord Mayor stated this revised plan was as a result of “community consultation”. The revision was advised to the Department of Planning

·         In February 2012 Friends of Erskineville (FOE) held a public meeting on the development at Erskineville Town Hall and which was attended by well over 150 people (standing room only). At the meeting council presented a justification for its revised plan, and FOE explained the proposal to residents and the flaws in the council approach. The meeting was not attended by one single Lord Mayor aligned council member or Liberal Councillor Shayne Mallard – only attended by the single Labor and two Greens City Councillors.

·         Post the February meeting Planning Minister Hazzard visited the Ashmore site and then announced that the Planning Department would not accept the previous proposal of 19 storey apartment buildings. Council has now submitted its revised 9 storey plan to the state government.

LOCAL ENVIRONMENT PLAN (LEP)

·         At the same time as the Public Meeting called by FOE, Council was developing a revised Local Environment Plan (LEP). This plan was subject to final public comment ending one week after the Public Meeting. However it was noted that Leighton had submitted a development application one week BEFORE the closing date for the LEP. Residents could not understand council accepting a DA from Leighton BEFORE the LEP was finalised as any DA would be subject to and have to comply with the LEP

·         FOE corresponded with the Lord Mayor expressing resident concerns about the Ashmore development as were raised at the Public Meeting and expressing concerns over deficiencies in the proposed LEP.

·         Residents further made a presentation to a council meeting regarding the LEP and its effect on development in Erskineville but it was obvious that the Lord Mayoral control block in Council had already made a decision to not amend the LEP, and the Lord Mayor refused a resident request for an extension of 4 to 6 weeks to make further submission on the matter.

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE PROCESS

·         The Council voted to exempt the Ashmore site from the proposed LEP and treat it as a separate situation. This exemption would allow council to impose different standards on Ashmore development including increased floor space ratios leading to smaller rooms and denser occupation as it would appear is desired by the developers

·         FOE and the Alexandria Residents Action Group (ARAG) met with Minister Hazzard to express concerns over the LEP and resultant increased density and infrastructure problems surrounding the Ashmore development. A Ministerial Briefing paper was developed and submitted to the Minister.

·         FOE met with Leighton Holdings and expressed resident concerns relating to the development. It was noted at the time that council had already approved a DA for Leighton to proceed with demolition of existing buildings on part of the site and erection of a display premises.

 

RESIDENT CONCERNS

IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT ALL THROUGH THIS PROCESS FOE AND RESIDENTS HAVE MADE IT CLEAR TO ALL CONCERNED THAT THEY ARE NOT OPPOSED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ASHMORE ESTATE. WHAT FOE AND RESIDENTS WANT IS A SOLUTION TO PROBLEMS RELATING TO THE SITE PRIOR TO ANY DEVELOPMENT TAKING PLACE.

FOE and resident concerns are as follows:

1.       There is a total lack of public transport planning associated with the proposal. The existing public transport infrastructure is already inadequate and Rail Corp figure state trains ex Erskineville Station in peak hour are already 150 – 180% overloaded. Bus services are already totally inadequate for the area. FOE has communicated with Minister Berejiklian on this matter and requested a meeting which has so far not been granted – only a letter saying the Minister is aware of the situation and will address it as development progresses. This is not good enough. Such commitments from previous governments (e.g. over the Australian Technology Park) had not been honoured. FOE wants a firm written commitment plan from government prior to the commencement of construction. Governments change and this plan needs to be set in concrete.

2.       Traffic flow is already at a state where Erskineville road, and Copeland and Swanson Streets leading to Erskineville road, are at a standstill “parking lot” situation in peak periods. The area requires a new traffic plan before development commences.

3.       The site is part of the Munni Street flood plain. There has already been flooding up to a depth of almost a metre at the corner of Coulson St and Mitchell Road, and regular flooding occurs throughout the site in areas such as under rail viaducts due to run off from Rail Corp land. The site requires upgrading and re-piping to meet a 20 year to 100 year flood scenario at an approximate cost of $24 million but there is no plan to do this PRIOR to construction commencing. Are we to wait until, the area is flooded AFTER construction and occupation and then attempt a fix?

4.       There is no overall approach to traffic management and the site is being treated in isolation. Already Mitchell Road (the main artery) is gridlocked in peak hours, and there is a major Bunnings Store (biggest in the southern hemisphere) development in the area adding to the problem, but this development is also being treated in isolation. A co-ordinated approach is required for the entire area. (FOE understands the council has begun a revised traffic management assessment).

5.       Residents believe that 9 storey buildings do not fit in with the local environment and want the original approved 4 or 5 storey approved plan maximum heights maintained. (It is understood that Council is carrying out further investigation in this regard as a result of overwhelming resident opposition to the 9 storey plan.)

6.       There is no provision in plans so far for facilities such as a school or pre-school centre. The local existing school and pre-schools are already full without an additional 6000+ residents coming into the area. (FOE understand that council is revisiting g the plan in this regard and awaits council’s proposals in this regard)

COMMENTS and concerns

·         There appears to be no co-ordination between Council and the state government. Council has responsibility in certain areas but when it comes to transport, traffic management etc. the buck passes to government with council saying it has no control. Why does council not ask for control or alternatively propose legislation to government that would allow for a co-ordinated approach? Is council too concerned that government may take away some of its powers, rather than being concerned in a common sense approach to planning?

·         Why has council exempted the site from the LEP and hence controls that will apply to all other construction in the city council area?

·         Why is council only allowing for approximately 1900 off street parking spaces for approximately 3500 residences? (when 2011 census statistics reveal static or increased car ownership in the area and hence present council policies regarding car control have failed and require a re-think). Do developers understand that under current council rules, if a resident only parking scheme is introduced then because the development is a new build all residents who do not have off street parking will not be allowed to have a resident parking permit and hence they would have to sell the approximately 1600 residences that will not be allocated an off street parking space on the basis that the buyers will not be allowed to own a vehicle? And can such an imposition be made on a free public? Why has council been approving other developments apart from Ashmore with NO off street parking being made mandatory as part of the development?

·         Leighton have admitted to FOE that their DA – lodged before the close off of submissions to the LEP, and to which over 300 resident objections have been lodged with Council – roughly complies with the proposed LEP which has yet to receive government approval. Leighton has also admitted they conducted a design competition, (which under Council rules allows for up to a 10% increase in development over and above Council guidelines), and that Council was part of the judging panel. The question now arises as to the relationship between Council and Leighton. Has Council been feeding Leighton information as submissions on the LEP were made when the submissions and the LEP were not complete – or had Council already made a decision on the LEP and was merely going through the motion of community consultation in order to tick boxes? What was Council doing sitting on the design competition judging panel when Council had to approve the final plan – a direct conflict of interest? Did Council exempt the Ashmore Development from the LEP as a result of lobbying from developers, and if not why has the site been exempted from the LEP?

·         It appears that council may well approve development proceeding without the transport, traffic, water and other infrastructure issues being addressed before construction commences. Why will council not condition any Development Application on the basis that these issues must be addressed with firm irrevocable commitments and plans before development can proceed? Is Council afraid that by conditioning any development application a Land and Environment Court case may eventuate? (and maybe that is what is required to satisfy issues once and for all?)